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La Jolla permit reviewers hear safety and environmental concerns about La Jolla View Reservoir project

The La Jolla View Reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park is planned to be demolished and replaced.
The La Jolla View Reservoir, located off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park, is planned to be demolished and replaced with an underground reservoir.
(File)

About 30 people attended the Jan. 12 La Jolla Development Permit Review Committee meeting to discuss the planned replacement of the La Jolla View Reservoir, many with concerns about the project.

DPR did not vote during the online meeting but scheduled another hearing for Jan. 19 (after the La Jolla Light’s deadline). The project also is scheduled to be heard at the Feb. 4 La Jolla Community Planning Association’s online meeting.

For the record:

2:46 PM, Jan. 15, 2021This article was updated to correct the year that the Exchange Place Reservoir was built.

The San Diego Development Services Department has prepared a draft environmental impact report and is inviting public comments about it through Monday, Feb. 15.

The draft EIR and associated technical appendices have been placed on the city of San Diego website and can be accessed at sandiego.gov/ceqa/draft under “California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) notices and documents.”

A construction start date was not announced.

The project would replace the 990,000-gallon, partially above ground Exchange Place Reservoir and the 720,000-gallon La Jolla View Reservoir, an above-ground water storage tank, with one new 3.1-million-gallon underground reservoir in La Jolla Heights Natural Park above the La Jolla Country Club area. The existing reservoirs and the Exchange Place Pump Station would be demolished and their sites would be returned to historical contours with native vegetation.

The La Jolla View Reservoir is located off Encelia Drive in La Jolla Heights Natural Park, and the Exchange Place Reservoir is near the corner of Country Club Drive and Pepita Way. The reservoirs were built in 1949 and about 1909, respectively, and are no longer able to keep up with water use demands.

The La Jolla View Reservoir is part of the city system that includes the Muirlands Pump Station, La Jolla Country Club Reservoir, Soledad Reservoir and Muirlands Pipeline, all of which connect to residential areas. The water is pumped from parts of La Jolla and from the Miramar Water Treatment Plant.

The work will include city crews demolishing the two reservoirs, building a portion of pipeline in the park, constructing a temporary access road to the new reservoir and stockpiling soil that will be used to backfill the reservoir once it is complete. Crews will then build the new reservoir and remaining pipeline in the canyon or park area from Country Club Drive to Soledad Avenue. The final task is to complete restoration of the area.

During public comments at the DPR meeting, Romero Drive resident Maxine Snyder said she was not against the project but questioned how many construction vehicles would travel up the curvy road every day to access the site.

“My understanding is they are estimating 3,000 truck trips to get the project done over a period of more than two years,” she said.

One project representative said he did not have an exact number but agreed it was “significant.”

“This is a very narrow road with three curves that are really blind or somewhat blind,” Snyder said. “I think there are better alternatives for access for this project.”

She added that pedestrians frequent the street because there is no sidewalk and that having large construction vehicles would be hazardous.

Traffic engineer Jonathan Sanchez said there would be a “temporary truck control plan” to ensure safe operation of vehicles.

Resident Ron Schachar said he was concerned about the combined weight of the new tank, the water and soil and the area’s susceptibility to landslides and/or earthquakes. “If that tank slides, it will take the surrounding area with it, and the drawings don’t show what is going to be done to support this,” he said.

Associate civil engineer Bilal Oriqat said the tank “performed exceptionally” in a geotechnical study but that he would agree to present additional information as available.

La Jolla resident and former San Diego City Manager Jack McGrory asked about the effects on trails and whether the park would be closed during the construction. He said the EIR is “light on the impact to sensitive resources” in that “there is coastal sage, gnatcatchers and birds that fly around that canyon every day.”

He also spoke of “the danger going up and down that street” and urged the city to consider another accessway.

A fact sheet associated with the project has been posted on the La Jolla Community Planning Association website, lajollacpa.org, under “Agendas” and “Materials” for the Jan. 12 DPR meeting.